Reversing excavator injures construction worker


On any building site, the movement of vehicles is a particular health and safety concern – and this case shows why.

The contracting firm of SD Launchbury Ltd, of Evesham, Worcs, was carrying out excavation work on a site at Gretton, nr. Cheltenham, on May 10th, 2013.

There were safety issues with the excavator that caused an accident on site:

  • Its rear view mirrors were inadequate
  • There were no other visual aids to the driver
  • His vision from the driving seat was obscured by the excavator’s counterbalance weight

Thus when the vehicle reversed on site, it struck and ran over a worker, Thomas Plumb (27), shattering his right leg. Mr. Plumb was in a state of coma in hospital for 10 days and then had to remain there for 7 weeks. His wounds required severe surgery, which included bone and skin grafts. There are metal rods and screws in his leg, and his ankle and knee joints.

Failure to manage the site

The subsequent Health & Safety investigation, on SD Launchbury Ltd and the site itself, showed that there were additional issues regarding the way in which work had been carried out. There was clearly a failure to plan or organise the work satisfactorily. To be specific, the firm had not:

  • Made a genuine risk assessment for the excavation work
  • Prepared or implemented a method statement for safe working
  • Provided a trained banksman while the machines were in use
  • Segregated pedestrian workers from the moving equipment
  • Set up any barriers to access

It also became clear (as Inspectors looked into the situation) that supervision was lacking, and that the operatives were not informed or trained in terms of how to work with excavators on site. They even lacked hi-vis PPE.

The Murcot, Oxon-based company, SD Launchbury Ltd. was inevitably taken to court, where it received a fine of £12,000 as well as £913 in prosecution costs. The firm pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

The comments of the responsible HSE Inspector, Kate Leftly, were very pertinent. She pointed out that some 10 construction workers die annually in the UK from injuries sustained due to moving plant accidents. More specifically, she said:

“Thomas Plumb suffered life-changing injuries, which could have been avoided if SD Launchbury had properly assessed the risk posed by the excavator and appropriate controls, including segregation of vehicles and pedestrians and the provision of adequate visibility aids, had been put in place.”

Many of the hundreds of mobile plant injuries sustained each year are similarly avoidable. For basic data on construction safety, visit And for particular guidance relevant to your specific site circumstances, seek help from the time-served building safety consultants of McCormack Benson Health & Safety, who will work with you and appreciate your business needs, while helping you to work smarter – and safer.